Part of Mrs. WC’s job involves trying to purge alien invasive weeds from a private nature refuge. She spends entire days pulling and carting off white sweet clover, purple vetch and yellow toadflax. All are invasive. None are native. All outcompete native species.
White Sweetclover creates huge monospecific fields, crowding out most other plants. One White Sweetclover plant can produce 350,000 seeds. This pest is believed to have been brought to Alaska in imported forage or by roadside seeding projects.
Bird Vetch is a climbing vine, and smothers surrounding plants. It creates dense, waist-high thickets whose vines and tendrils can be very difficult to push through. In a dry autumn, on a hot days the seed pods will explode, scattering the seeds.
Invasive plants have gotten more attention recently. Rick Sinnot did a fine piece for Alaska Dispatch and the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported on the threat of Canadian Waterweed, Elodea canadensis, an invasive water plant that has the potential to completely clog every slow-moving stream in Interior Alaska. The University of Alaska Anchorage has set up an on-line database that tracks invasive species in Alaska. Public awareness is growing. But it has a long ways to go. Someone calling themselves “Chasm” posted a comment to the Alaska Dispatch article:
Worrying about this is absurd, it’s called change. If a species is suited for Alaska, it will survive. It can come on the wind, or ocean currents, on a truck or car, or even by airplane. Personally I think the dandelion is a pretty flower, dandelion wine is not bad, and the greens are quite edible, what’s not to like?
If you don’t want any change, you can commit suicide.
WC refuses to debate someone who apparently thinks Dutch Elm Disease is just fine. That was the introduced fungus that extirpated most of North America’s native elm trees. WC suggests the chasm is between this guy’s ears. It’s probably impossible at this date to get either White Sweetclover of Bird Vetch out of Alaska. But we can make an effort to control it. It’s the right thing to do.